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Increasing my limit

Old 07-14-19, 10:29 PM
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SanFranCyclist
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Increasing my limit

As I reach my 35th birthday, I have become more and more health conscious. I'm 5'10", 158 pounds. I try to cycle at least once a week in the city, whether it's at the park, next to the beach, etc. for at least 10-15 miles. My style is more on the recreational side because I want to actually enjoy cycling. However, there have been a few times where I've almost reached the 30 mile mark.

Unfortunately, that seems to be my breaking point. The first time it happened, I felt "exhaustion" of my muscles in both my legs' upper thighs. I was dismounting my bike at this point, but a horrible cramp followed after, dropping me to the ground. To add insult to injury, my muscle spasm wasn't just localized to my thighs...let's just say that I'm glad my cycling shorts were black!

After I recovered, I braced myself onto my bicycle as I slowly walked back to my car. It was a long and wet walk, but I got home okay and rested up.

It was several months after until I decided to do another 30 mile attempt. The same thing happened--my muscles seem to "curl up" at around the 28 mile mark. Again, I was hit with a cramp, but at least my shorts stayed dry this time

Anyway, my question is how to increase my muscles' endurance safely. I don't ride particularly hard. In fact, I take lots of breaks for Instagram shots, but there are a lot of hills in San Francisco, which makes me go into overdrive when I pedal uphill.

Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 07-14-19, 11:13 PM
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Two things. First, once a week doesn't cut it. Second, doubling your ride length is too big a step.

Do your 10-15 mile ride 3 times/week, for several weeks. Then do 15, 15, 20 for a couple weeks. Then 15, 15, 25 for a few weeks. Then 15, 15, 30. And so on. If you have time, increase the 15s to 20.

If you're healthy, there is no limit, no wall, no barrier that will keep you from riding some distance. There's fitness, know-how, and desire. The first two will ramp up as you ramp up distance.

Cheers.
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Old 07-15-19, 06:43 AM
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Ride more often. 3-4x 10-15 miles. 30 miles will come very quickly after that.

When I first started I rode 5-6 days a week, starting at 10 miles and then getting up to 60-70 mile rides once or twice a week. Then I went and popped off a 100 miler one day without ever doing anything close to that. But because I had ridden so frequently the cumulative fitness carried me through (that and eating a lot).
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Old 07-15-19, 07:58 AM
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You need to ride more than once a week. Break it up to shorter distances as mentioned above. Your body will then begin adapting. You can't do one big ride to account for numerous shorter rides and get the same benefit. You also should make sure you are fueling yourself appropriately and getting all the nutrients your body needs. The reason you feel like you want to enjoy riding at your current effort is because you think that anything more than your current effort will result in the experience you described above. As you ride more and your body adapts (which it will do quickly based on current described activity), you will get faster and have the endurance to go longer without killing yourself.
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Old 07-15-19, 08:13 AM
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As others have said, ride more often. And there are plenty of flat places in the city. You can always do loops of the Polo Grounds to build up miles.
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Old 07-15-19, 09:13 AM
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How much of an effort are you making while riding those thirty miles? Doing it at a leisurely pace or trying to keep at what you feel is near the maximum effort you can maintain?

Leisurely, then all you really need to think about is hydration.

If at a high effort, then you need to think about hydration and replacing those spent Calories and electrolytes. If you only drink water, then you need some foods with carbs and electrolytes. Or you can put the carbs and electrolytes in your water. Some want some protein, but I'm not convinced on that yet, but if you feel better with a little protein, then go for it. And this is only while you ride, not quite the same for after.

Muscle cramping tends to indicate you might have flooded yourself out on pure water. IMO as is just about everything I write.

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Old 07-15-19, 09:34 AM
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Right now, your weekly mileage is 30. Increase that by 10% per week, not by making one ride longer, but by doing more shorter rides. When you get up to 50 miles a week, one 30 mile ride will be easy.

Muscle cramps are caused by working muscles much harder than they are used to. There can also be a hydration/electrolyte component, though in 30 miles those would be insignificant.

You can break a muscle cramp with pickle juice. Small bottles, easy to carry, are usually available in bike shops now.
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Old 07-15-19, 11:02 AM
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Re: Muscle cramps/spasms. Liquid magnesium.
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Old 07-15-19, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by SanFranCyclist View Post
I take lots of breaks for Instagram shots
Priorities.

As everyone else has pointed out, as an active young person, the amount you're riding isn't challenging your fitness enough to do anything. Riding more often (even if you stick to short rides) will get more miles into your legs, and it sounds like you're not yet acquainted with the endorphin rush that comes from riding really hard. I won't tell you how to ride, but let's just say that leisurely riding doesn't do it for me anymore. Good luck.
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Old 07-15-19, 01:46 PM
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Are you refueling? Drinking and eating? If you are, then you should be able to increase your mileage 5-10% each week.
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Old 07-15-19, 05:35 PM
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Thanks for the advice everyone.




I basically concluded that:




Do I want a leisurely ride, or do I want to pump it up a few notches to stay fit and increase my riding?

Riding more consistently, such as three times a week of 10 miles or so. Perhaps it's time to invest in a bicycle trainer?


Replenishing myself with electrolytes instead of just plain 'ol water. My mom said that if I kept drinking that stuff daily I'd become a diabetic, but I definitely exercise wayyy more than she does.




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Old 07-15-19, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by SanFranCyclist View Post
Thanks for the advice everyone.




I basically concluded that:




Do I want a leisurely ride, or do I want to pump it up a few notches to stay fit and increase my riding?

Riding more consistently, such as three times a week of 10 miles or so. Perhaps it's time to invest in a bicycle trainer?


3 times a week probably isn't enough to build much endurance. 4 or 5 times a week would do the trick.

it doesn't matter how much you ride on each of the rides at first, just choose a comfortable distance and do approximately that distance, regularly. Vary your distance a little and your route from day to day to keep it from getting boring. And then, as others have said, aim to increase your weekly mileage by 10%/week. That is the magic ticket: +10%/week*. Don't worry about performance or speed. Just keep at it. In a few months you'll be amazed at how far you can ride.

*If you start at 30 miles/week - 5 rides averaging 6 miles each - and increase 10%/week, in 6 months time you'd be riding 300 miles/week. I'm guessing you have no desire to ride that much (though you might surprise yourself), but the point is that you don't have to make any heroic leaps to real cycling endurance, you just need to be persistent.
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Old 07-16-19, 09:35 AM
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A trainer won't help unless you can't ride the road because of constraints on your time.
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Old 07-16-19, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by SanFranCyclist View Post
Thanks for the advice everyone.




I basically concluded that:




Do I want a leisurely ride, or do I want to pump it up a few notches to stay fit and increase my riding?

Riding more consistently, such as three times a week of 10 miles or so. Perhaps it's time to invest in a bicycle trainer?


Replenishing myself with electrolytes instead of just plain 'ol water. My mom said that if I kept drinking that stuff daily I'd become a diabetic, but I definitely exercise wayyy more than she does.




They do have options lower on the sugar and what not. Don't have to go with straight up Gatorade.
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Old 07-16-19, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by SanFranCyclist View Post



Do I want a leisurely ride, or do I want to pump it up a few notches to stay fit and increase my riding?
There's zero reason to not do both. 7 days in a week. You don't (and likely shouldn't) do the same thing each day.
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Old 07-16-19, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by SanFranCyclist View Post
Replenishing myself with electrolytes instead of just plain 'ol water. My mom said that if I kept drinking that stuff daily I'd become a diabetic, but I definitely exercise wayyy more than she does.
You don't need that stuff. I drink only water and ride significantly more than you do.

Your cramping issues are very likely due to you being unfit and out of shape relative to the activity you're trying to do. Sugary drinks aren't going to change that (unless you're also on some crazy diet where you're not eating anything). Ride more often and the cramps will go away.
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Old 07-17-19, 03:21 AM
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Just keep riding. It'll come. Find a compatible group and ride with them once a week, or a few times a month. That made a huge difference in my enjoyment of cycling and fitness. I was in terrible shape when I resumed cycling in 2015 after 30+ years away, and in my late 50s. Getting dropped on every hill motivated me to keep chugging and plugging away. Took awhile but I got stronger and faster. You're young so it'll come quicker for you. Took me over a year to see much progress.

I don't have a rigid schedule for training, but I try to do an interval session once a week (15-30 minutes), a couple of moderate effort long rides (50-60 miles), and one harder effort semi-longish ride (20-30 miles without stops). Works for me. Younger folks could ride more often, farther and faster. I have to be realistic about my age and recovery time.

Regarding cramps... nobody knows. Seriously, even researchers don't know.

Some folks are more prone than others to muscle cramps. I've had painful muscle spasms on and off my whole life. Got 'em so bad after a 60+ mile ride Sunday I literally fell on the floor rolling around hollering and laughing because the spasms kept jumping from one part of my body to another. Started with the thigh, then as soon as I tried to sort that out it hit my abdominal muscles, then my calves, then the arches of my feet. By the time it was finished I had a bruise on my shoulder blade from rolling on the floor.

Multiple world boxing champ Manny Pacquiao has been plagued with muscle spasms, mostly in his legs. He makes a gazillion dollars and can afford the best possible medical treatment. If there was a surefire cure he'd have found it. But nobody knows for certain what causes it or how to fix it.

I also use a roller on the muscles I can reach -- a heavy marble rolling pin. It works. Makes good biscuits too.

Some folks swear by electrolytes and supplements. Some swear at it and say it's hogwash. But it works for me.

Best rescue electrolyte I've tried is DropDrop ORS. Comes in single serving Mylar packets. It's pricey but it works. Not only has it saved my bacon, it's worked on friends who've suffered muscle cramps or sudden onset of heat exhaustion. I didn't hard-sell it to them. I just put some in their water bottles, told 'em to drink the whole thing and wait about 15 minutes. Did the trick. There are lots of electrolytes around and they all do pretty much the same thing, but DripDrop has research to back up their claims (see their website). But the trick is to mix it appropriately -- not too dilute or concentrated. It needs the right amount of sugar to be absorbed quickly.

I carry a couple of the Mylar packets in my saddle bag or jersey pockets, every ride. And I've shared 'em a couple of times. It works. I'd imagine NUUN and others work as well, but the single serve Mylar packets are handy and waterproof, and take up practically no room even in my smallest saddle bag.

Some folks swear by pickle juice. I was skeptical, figuring that salt is salt and it doesn't matter what form it's in. But some research indicates it may have nothing to do with electrolyte replacement -- which would take around 15 minutes to begin to help -- and may have more to do with effects on the vagus nerve, which could explain the nearly immediate relief some folks claim for pickle juice.

I also use all kinds of voodoo potions. I'll only say it seems to work for me.

Pre-ride, at least an hour or so before a hard workout or group ride, I'll drink a bottle with creatine and BCAAs, a bit of powdered veggie material that's supposedly high in ecdysterone, an anabolic agent that's -- for now -- not banned and seems to be effective. It's found in spinach and other greens, and even in some insects and shellfish.

I take magnesium lactate, which seems to be more effective than other common forms of magnesium -- citrate, glycinate, etc. It sure seems to work. And I understand why it's not used more often. Magnesium lactate causes ferocious intestinal gas. It's almost comical how much I fart from the stuff. But it sure seems to work. It's one of the ingredients in Sportlegs, a supplement some friends swear by for muscle cramps. Supposedly the lactate forms of magnesium and calcium provide what the muscles need, quicker.

I do notice quicker recovery from harder efforts. Before, with short, steep punchy sprint-climbs, I'd be gassed out and lagging behind, usually getting dropped on faster group rides. Now I recover much more quickly and can catch up. That's a pretty common claim for success stories using creatine and mag lactate.

And in the real voodoo category, I also take DHEA, pregnenolone and other stuff. It's all legal, you can buy it anywhere. Does it help? I dunno. I'm recovering from thyroid cancer and need synthetic thyroid supplements, have borderline anemia and other stuff. So I'll try anything that might help. I won't claim any miracles but it doesn't seem to hurt anything.
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Old 07-17-19, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
And in the real voodoo category, I also takeDHEA, pregnenolone and other stuff. It's all legal, you can buy it anywhere. Does it help? I dunno. I'm recovering from thyroid cancer and need synthetic thyroid supplements, have borderline anemia and other stuff. So I'll try anything that might help. I won't claim any miracles but it doesn't seem to hurt anything.
Legal, but banned if OP were inclined to do any gran fondos, sanctioned races, triathlons, etc.

Something to keep in mind.
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Old 07-17-19, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Legal, but banned if OP were inclined to do any gran fondos, sanctioned races, triathlons, etc.

Something to keep in mind.
True, but the OP is a long way off from that. At his age, mid-30s, it would take about six months of methodical training to get up to that level of fitness. At my age and physical condition it took two years.

I'm just beginning to consider trying time trials again, and I'd need to quit taking many supplements I use now. And check my lab results to see how my meds for thyroid, bone loss, etc., are affecting my levels. I suspect everything is within the low normal range, but I'm deliberately trying to boost my testosterone without resorting to anything extreme. Probably a waste of time and money, but some stuff we gotta try for ourselves.

Mostly I just don't want to be the slowpoke holding up every group ride. Finally made some progress toward that this year. For now my only competition is the calendar and nobody wins that game.
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Old 07-17-19, 03:44 PM
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Lift weights to increase bone density and testosterone levels. Long aerobic efforts on the bike are like the worst things for bone density and testosterone.
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Old 07-17-19, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by SanFranCyclist View Post
Thanks for the advice everyone.




I basically concluded that:




Do I want a leisurely ride, or do I want to pump it up a few notches to stay fit and increase my riding?

Riding more consistently, such as three times a week of 10 miles or so. Perhaps it's time to invest in a bicycle trainer?


Replenishing myself with electrolytes instead of just plain 'ol water. My mom said that if I kept drinking that stuff daily I'd become a diabetic, but I definitely exercise wayyy more than she does.




Your first question is answered by riding in somewhat hilly terrain. No need to climb mountains, but choose roads which do up an down quite a bit. That'll take care of it for quite a while. Explore,

3 times a week works fine, though to get your weekly mileage up, each will be longer than if you rode almost every day. There are good things about doing it each way. Personally, I think it's more fun to ride further and on different roads.

Plain water is probably best for now. For short rides, you don't need electrolytes. I usually don't bother unless I'm riding 3 hours or more. It's better for your teeth to use a non-sweetened electrolyte. You don't need much at all. For food, take along some some sort of sports bar or bagel, banana, dates, that sort of thing. Eat if and when you get hungry, otherwise don't bother. Most people tend to eat more calories than they burn, easy to do.
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Old 07-18-19, 08:55 AM
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You guys rock! Thanks for all the mountains of advice. I'll work hard on it.
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Old 07-18-19, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by CyclingFever View Post
Lift weights to increase bone density and testosterone levels. Long aerobic efforts on the bike are like the worst things for bone density and testosterone.
I dunno. Personally I do both. I lift for a couple hours/week in winter and ride 6-8. Cycling is my primary sport, not weights. It's true that it's easy to lose bone density over the decades from too much cycling, not enough weights. My mom had really bad osteoporosis and never did anything aerobic, so it's not predictive. This study looks at a worst case scenario: post-menopausal women initiating aerobic training, examining changes in bone mineral density: https://www.researchgate.net/profile...usal-Women.pdf
Thus, although 12 months of aerobic exercise training did not result in significant increases in forearm or lumbar BMD, training attenuated lumbar BMD loss in women who were <6 years of the onset of the menopause.
My wife would disagree with you about your latter claim. My last Sunday ride was 115 miles and 8100', averaged 15.1, 74 y.o. That's a lot of aerobics. In fact it's well known that the circulatory benefits of aerobic training greatly outweigh any possible attenuation of T.
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Old 07-18-19, 03:52 PM
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The bone density issues are from the cycling as it's non weight bearing. Aerobic exercise isn't related to that as running/walking are aerobic and be great for bone density since weight bearing.

Testosterone decreases with age regardless but low end aerobic exercise for long durations can contribute if not balanced out. You don't have to get crazy dedicating time to strength training but doing a little bit helps.
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